Some like it hot!
And boy has it been hot! Very hot.
Now that’s all very well if you are on holiday but having to work in these conditions is another story. Starting super early and having a siesta is very appealing but sadly it isn’t always practical to do so. My tactic is to work in the hottest part of the garden first thing and, as the morning heats up, to move to the shade and stay there.
Taking inspiration from the Wimbledon players, who on hot days have a towel rolled into a sausage with ice on the inside, I have taken to wringing out a wet tea towel and wrapping that around my neck. Not the most flattering of looks but effective. And it goes without saying that big hats and Factor 30 are essential, as is keeping well hydrated. And that goes for the plants too.
Obviously you can’t water everything so focus on newly planted shrubs, trees, vegetables and annuals. Water early in the morning or later in the evening so as to avoid scorching the leaves, and water effectively, concentrating the water at the soil around the plants and not just wetting the foliage. It is better to give them a big drink less often than a small drink more frequently.
As the delphiniums and lupins go over cut the flower spike just above the basal leaves and they might just put on a second show later in the season. Similarly with geraniums, after they have flowered cut them back to the ground and they too will re-grow into more compact mounds and re-flower.
Now is the time to lift and split bearded irises if they have died out in the middle and become a mat of rhizomes. Simply take a garden fork and ease them out of the ground, break up the rhizomes with your hands and discard the old non-productive centres. The productive rhizomes will have leaves attached, cut these back to about 6inches, and replant. The knack is not to plant deeply, the top half of the rhizome should be above ground. They need lots of sun and water them in well.
We are well into the season of deadheading. It is important not to let plants go to seed, as they will stop flowering. Don’t forget your pots and containers too, the annuals in them are there to flower their socks off! This is a full time job here at Houghton Lodge and is the key to keeping the gardens looking fabulous.
Who knows how long summer will last, so ensure you make the most of it and find those moments to kick back and enjoy all your hard work.
By Stella Weir, Gardener at Houghton Lodge Gardens